There are halftime chats and then there are coach's rants. Pat Summitt hasn't won 1,071 games by not knowing when to let her team have it.
Summitt absolutely lit up her Tennessee Lady Vols at the break and their regional semifinal game Saturday tilted soon after. With Shekinna Stricklen scoring 14 of her 20 points in the second half and touching off a critical 11-3 run, Summitt and the Lady Vols moved into their accustomed spot in the Elite Eight with an 85-75 win over Ohio State.
"It was about an 8 1/2 ," she said, rating her halftime speech on a scale where 10 is when the paint peels off the walls. "I wasn't real happy. But that's what you have to do at times. You go into the locker room and get a feel. One thing about this team, they do respond. Sometimes I think they kind of like to hear the coaches going off."
The Lady Vols (34-2) won their 25th consecutive game, but only took control in the final minutes.
Meighan Simmons added 18 points and Kelley Cain -- inserted into the starting lineup to offset Ohio State's height advantage -- had 16 for Tennessee, which is pursuing a ninth NCAA title. The Lady Vols meet Notre Dame, a 78-53 winner over Oklahoma, in the regional championship game on Monday night, with a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis on the line.
"Coach kind of lit a fire under our butts in the second half," Cain said. "We played better. We were getting up in their grilles, making them play at a different level than they were used to."
Simmons grinned as she said, "Coach went off on us in the locker room."
None of the Lady Vols were really surprised. They had played poor defense, leading to Ohio State (24-10) shooting 67 percent in the opening half. The Buckeyes led by as many as six before settling for a 42-40 halftime lead.
"We played on our heels a little more in the first half," said Angie Bjorklund.
In the second game, Brittany Mallory scored a season-high 20 points, and Notre Dame's defensive pressure took its toll as the Fighting Irish improved to 29-7.
Nicole Griffin scored 18 points for Oklahoma (23-12), which had reached the Final Four each of the last two years. Notre Dame's go-for-the-ball pressure crumpled the Sooners' guard-driven offense, which had only eight field goals in the decisive first half.
In the Spokane regional, Courtney Vandersloot scored 29 points with seven assists and seven steals, and 11th-seeded Gonzaga (31-4) advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history with a 76-69 win over Louisville (22-13).
Gonzaga will play the winner of the Stanford-North Carolina game, which ended too late for this edition.